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International Graduate Student Applicants

We welcome applications from students from around the world.  The mathematical profession has more international collaboration than almost any other field of study. This is reflected in the University of Washington (UW) Mathematics Department, which has many faculty and graduate students who received their education through the undergraduate level in other countries.  The contributions of graduate students and faculty from different parts of the world enhance the department's diversity and its strength in research and teaching. 

The UW Mathematics Department has strengths in many research areas, including algebraic geometry, algebraic topology, combinatorics, complex analysis, differential geometry, discrete geometry, ergodic theory & dynamical systems, mathematical physics, non-smooth analysis, number theory, numerical analysis, optimization, PDE, probability, and representation theory of Lie groups & Lie algebras. Before applying, it’s a good idea to examine the research fields that are represented (see to be sure that they mesh with your interests.

Located in Seattle, UW is the flagship university of the State of Washington, which has been ranked “the best state in America” by U.S. News & World Report (  Seattle is the home of many international companies such as Amazon, Boeing, Microsoft, and Starbucks. The surrounding area is known for its natural beauty — especially the Olympic Peninsula, the Cascade Mountain Range, and the islands and waters of Puget Sound.

Seattle is a center for international trade and cooperation. It is a multicultural city whose citizens come from all over the world. This is reflected in everything from museums, restaurants, and festivals, to civic leaders and elected officials. Seattle is home to the award-winning Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Opera, and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Seattle’s airport is an international hub with convenient connections to many cities.

Advice for International Applicants to Our PhD Program

The record of your performance in advanced mathematics courses is, of course, a crucial part of your application. Since marks in courses by themselves can be hard to interpret on their own by people outside your institution, it is helpful if the professors writing your letters of recommendation put those marks in context, for example, by indicating how your performance compares with that of other students in the same classes.

You can make your application stronger if you give specific evidence demonstrating research promise. In recent years many universities in the U.S. have started programs called Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs). For American applicants the most common evidence of research promise is a letter of recommendation from their REU professor. However, universities in most countries do not offer REU programs. In that case you can highlight other types of evidence in your application. For example (none of these are requirements):

  1. You have he option of attaching to your application the pdf-file of a paper you have written or coauthored (see You should choose the paper that best shows your research potential. It can be a Bachelor's or Master's thesis, a published or archived article, or a paper for a class that goes well beyond standard undergraduate course material. If the paper has been published or archived, please give its complete citation.
  2. Mathematical conversations with a professor that go beyond the required material for your courses, in which case a letter of recommendation from that professor would be helpful. 
  3. Contact (such as email correspondence) with a mathematician not at your institution who can speak about your research potential, in which case a letter of recommendation from that mathematician would be helpful.

Even though the Math Subject GRE is not required, it is highly recommended. These scores are one of the ways that we compare applicants from around the world. If you are someone who does well on standardized tests, then a good score will enhance your record. If you are unable to take the GRE or if the cost or travel to take it would be a hardship for you, we will still seriously consider your application. In that case other components of the application materials, such as letters of recommendation and evidence of mathematical interests that go beyond course work, will be especially important.

An optional suggested topic for the Personal Statement asks about contributions to enhancing diversity of the mathematical profession (“Have you initiated or participated in activities that work to increase participation of underrepresented populations in the mathematical sciences?”). The meaning of “underrepresented populations” varies from one country to another. Diversity-enhancing activities might include participating in a special program for women students, students from ethnic minorities, or students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Tutoring or mentoring individual students from underrepresented groups can also be mentioned. If you have overcome obstacles or hardships because of belonging to an underrepresented group, you could discuss this as well.

The English Language Proficiency Requirements for International Applicants

Note: An international applicant is one who is not a US citizen and does not hold a US Permanent Resident Visa ("green card" or "immigrant"). This definition includes students who hold US visas, such as F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors, H1-B, or any other non-immigrant classifications.  The Graduate School’s International Applicant Information is a helpful resource.  We will summarize the requirements below.

In addition to the materials that all applicants must submit, international applicants who are not native speakers of English need to provide evidence of English language proficiency.

Requirements for Admission to the University with Financial Support

Our graduate students are supported through teaching assistantships. If your native language is not English, to qualify for admission with financial support you must also have either

  • a Bachelor's degree from an institution in an English-speaking country listed in Memo #15/Policy 5.2 (note that the University's list of English-speaking countries is quite limited and does not include, for example, India or Hong Kong);
  • a score of 92 or higher on the TOEFL-iBT and either a score of at least 26 on the speaking section of the TOEFL-iBT or else a score of at least 7.0 on the speaking section of the IELTS. 

No later than December 2, you should arrange for your scores to be sent to us so that we receive them by the December 11 deadline. There have been some significant delays in getting the scores of international applicants from ETS.

NOTE: If you spoke English in your home during the first six years of your childhood, and it was the language in which you received instruction in school through age 13, you are considered a native English speaker.

You should not apply if you do not meet the English language requirement.

Links to Further Resources